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Recording Preservation Tips - Vinyl

  • Do you know why each time you play a vinyl record the sound gets worse?  You think you know, but it's much worse than you think:  Dust is abrasive, and combined with the pressure exerted on the groove walls by the stylus, can permanently etch the walls worse, dust can also be imbedded permanently into thermoplastic substances. Only a small point of the stylus is actually making contact with the groove walls. One and a half grams of stylus pressure on such a minute surface translates to several tons of pressure per square inch. The resulting drag generates enough heat that the plastic partially melts (though not enough to deform), causing a microscopic flow around the stylus into which dust can be embedded permanently. 
  • To thoroughly clean your vinyl records, follow this time-tested tip archivists use. This, and many other audio-visual tips can be found in the book Audiovisual Equipment and Materials. A Basic Repair and Maintenance Manual by Don Schroeder and Gary Lare (The Scarecrow Press, Inc. Metuchen, NJ and London. 1979)
    • "Put about two good squeezes of Joy or other liquid detergent in about 16 oz. of warm water, in a tray. Using a soft cloth wetted thoroughly and squeezed out, wash the disc with short curved strokes that follow the grooves. Go around the disc at least three times, being careful to keep the liquid off the label. Without rinsing, stand the discs against a wall or cabinet and allow to air-dry several hours or overnight."
  • LP records are usually packaged in a polyethylene, glassine, or paper inner liner or sleeve to protect the disc grooves; the liner is then placed in a paper box or dust jacket, which is shrink-wrapped. If shelved and housed according to the specifications outlined above, the original packaging is adequate if the shrink-wrapping is removed.
    • Do not use paper or cardboard inner sleeves and do not store records without inner sleeves.
    • The paper and glassine inner linings should be removed and replaced with polyethylene liners, because most contain acid that can migrate to the disc and attack the vinyl surfaces.
    • Use soft polyethylene inner sleeves. Do not use record sleeves made of PVC.
  • Never touch the surface of a recording. Use clean, white lintless cotton gloves and handle by the edges.
    • Recordings should not, unnecessarily, be left exposed to open air. Return items to their containers when not in use and never leave storage containers open.
    • Do not place recordings near sources of dust including paper or cardboard dust.
    • Keep the surrounding area clean. Do not consume food or beverages in the area in which recordings are handled.
    • Keep storage facilities as clean and dust-free as possible.
    • The air conditioning system should be equipped with dust filtering equipment.
    • Keep labeling to a minimum, but limit the placement of labels, especially pressure sensitive labels, to the container using conservation ink.
  • Shrink-wrap must always be removed because it is highly temperature-sensitive and can contract, causing disc warpage.
  • Damaged or lost inner liners and jackets should be replaced, not repaired. Repairs will create uneven surfaces against the recording, and adhesives may bleed onto the record itself.
  • Remove grooved discs from the jacket (with the inner sleeve) by bowing the jacket open by holding it against the body and applying a slight pressure with a hand. Pull the disc out by holding a corner of the inner sleeve. Avoid pressing down onto the disc with the fingers as any dust caught between the sleeve and the disc will be pressed into the grooves. 
    • Remove grooved discs from the inner sleeve by bowing the inner sleeve and letting it slip gradually into an open hand so that the edge falls on the inside of the thumb knuckle. The middle finger should reach for the centre label. Never reach into the sleeve.
    • To hold a disc, place the thumb on the edge of the disc, and the rest of the fingers of the same hand on the centre label for balance. Use both hands on the edge to place disc on turntable.
  • Here are more cleaning tips: use a soft, lint-free cloth or brush. Conduct the cleaning by circling in the direction of the grooves.
  • Don't use alcohol. Alcohol breaks down the bond between the laminate and the base. If the disc is badly soiled it may be washed in cool (or room temperature) distilled water with a lint-free cloth. One that is recommended is the Selvyt cloth used for cleaning and polishing musical band instruments. It has a short, stiff nap, similar to a cotton chamois cloth, that helps remove debris from the grooves. The cloth is also useful for drying the disc. The cloth may be purchased in stores that sell band instruments. Clean the disc by using a slightly damp cloth in a circling motion following the direction of the grooves.
    • Records are best cleaned using a record cleaning machine such as the Keith Monks, VPI, Nitty Gritty using 0.25 part of Tergitol 15-S-3 and 0.25 parts of Tergitol 15-S-9 per 100 parts of distilled water. These machines allow for an even dispersion of fluid and can then vacuum the liquid leaving a clean, dry surface. The discs must then be rinsed thoroughly with distilled water and vacuumed dry to eliminate any trace of detergent residue. Records should be cleaned before each playback.
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